Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Charging For Post Supervision

Published : 14th September 2003


I thought I may as well try and bring things back to professional cinematography.

I was wondering, partly as a result of reading the latest AC and partly because I'm waiting for a flight, how any of you charge for supervising post processes like grading.

It's becoming a more & more important part of what we do, as it already has been in commercials for a long time now, so do we charge or do we just get on with it in order to protect our image?

I'm on my way to DFL in Copenhagen to grade the commercials that I shot last week, I'll be coming back tomorrow, I'll get my expenses and a half day for it.

In London I rarely charge for the grade, it doesn't take more than a half day so I'm happy to do it to hold on to the control of the image.

So I guess that I base my charges on a half day pay per day of grading when it's "out of state" and bite the bullet when it's local.

What do you do?

Can we all get together on this and make companies more aware of how important it is?

Cheers

Geoff Boyle
Itinerant DP



Geoff Boyle wrote:

>Can we all get together on this and make companies more aware of >how important it is?

I'm with you here entirely. However I see some pitfalls here.

A) We're paying top dollar (Quid) for a colourists, why do we need to pay you?

B) If the post process is so important, and where you "create" the look – Why is your day rate for shooting the damn thing so high?

C) It costs too much to have you spend all day tweaking the shot in post.

D) The Corrolary to C being - If you can do in post, why are we standing around "Tweaking" forever on set.

etc. etc.

Okay, No sleep - Grumpy this morning. It's a great idea.

Steven Gladstone



We are all happy to do it (and sometimes angry or at least disappointed if we don't).

The producers know it! So ... why should they pay for something we are all desperately willing to do?

Argyris Theos



Argyris Theos wrote:

>We are all happy to do it (and sometimes angry or at least disappointed >if we don't).

Because THEY need your input MORE than you do. If you stand back and view the situation with some perspective, as I can do now, you will see that a producer is highly unlikely to spend millions on an ad and then fail to jump over the final hurdle by saving a few hundred quid.

They call your bluff and you fall for it every time. Call their bluff for a change and the situation will change overnight - well, until some DP’s break rank and say they'll throw it in just to get the job. But if you can stick to your daily fee then you should be able to stick to a fee for a TK session. Just takes guts to do it.

My t'pence worth....but then I'm cheap.

Shangara Singh.
Member: National Association of Photoshop Professionals
http://www.e-pixel.co.uk



Geoff Boyle writes :

>Can we all get together on this and make companies more aware of >how important it is?


This topic was MUCH discussed in January in a panel "When Does The Photography End?" as part of Cinematographer's Day at the Palm Springs Int’l Festival.

The simple answer, "Not ever." The seminar, moderated by yours truly, attempted more complex answers by addressing the whole issue of cinematographer’s rights as well as many of the topics about which we as filmmakers need to educate the public and the industry in general.

Panelists and participants included Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, John Bailey, ASC, Jim Cressanthis, Billy Williams, BSC, Vilmos Szigmond, ASC, Pierre Lhomme, AFC, Luciano Tovoli, ASC, AIC, Harvey Harrison, BSC, Rob McLachlan, CSC, Bob Fisher & Benedict Neuenfels.

If you haven’t yet, please read Suzanne Lezotte’s fine article at which describes the Cinematographer’s Day weekend in some detail :

www.cinematographer.com/article/mainv/0,7220,33046|1,00.html

The following is an excerpt from that article (here quoted with the permission of Jim McCullough, AC publisher and administrator of ASC website)…

"Among the issues facing cinematographers today with digital tools and new mediums, a bigger issue is the authorship rights and contractual issues that confront them, especially regarding digital post-production responsibilities and compensation.

Panel moderator Goodich began with this observation: 'In a very real sense, there is no 'final look.' The image on the original negative is not a fixed thing, it never has been. It can be manipulated chemically, with light, and now electronically. Prints age, negatives are damaged and have to be restored, digital media glitch, but it is the cinematographer who is and should be the 'guardian of the image.' The question really is, 'does the photography ever end?'

Kovacs said, "It used to be when the director said, 'It's a wrap,' that was the end of principal photography. Then you go to post. And a little piece of you goes with that film. But now, even though the photographic process it over, it's not over. Because 15-20 years from now, you might get a call from someone, telling you your film is in bad shape.


Williams referred to a quote about Ansel Adams…"We all admire Ansel Adams, I'm sure, but he worked in isolation. We don't work that way...more people are becoming involved in the final look of the film. What we are trying to determine is, who is going to have the final look of the film? If we want to have the final look, we need to get a contract from the studio...given that the director can't even have the final cut, how can we get that?"

Tovoli explained that in Europe, the cinematographer has the final look,100 per cent. Bringing up the ideal of IMAGO (the Federation of European Cinematographers), Tovoli explained that there are now three European countries who have recognized cinematographers by law as the co-author of the film. "We haven't solved the problem, but we have begun to get people to think that the cinematographer is the visual artist," he said.

Chressanthis believed that in order to have some say in the final look, form a good relationship with the director. "On 'Life with Judy Garland,' the director and I formed a good relationship, which is crucial. Your own vision is what will succeed. It works for me to be a digital artist/cinematographer. I recommend to young cinematographers that you be aware of the use of these tools if not able to use them yourself."


Neuenfels challenged the rest of the panel : "I get the impression that there is a lot of threat seen by the technical aspect, rather than the challenge. Doesn't this digital grading bring us closer to being a painter? The challenge of working on digital gives us a stable print. There is a chance that we will come to our final look, working with the people who help us come to this."

Tovoli reiterated that… "if we are the author of our own work, we have to be responsible and available, and we have to get paid." Zsigmond agreed. "We have to demand that right, to be respected. If you demand money, they pay attention to you -- in Hollywood." Citing an example, he added, "the post people demand it."

Harrison added…"It really does rest on authorship. At the end of the day, it comes down to the cinematographer and the timer. Now, so many people have input. Until you get authorship as the cinematographer, it will be a struggle."

The panel agreed that in order to come closer to being regarded as an author of the film…"we as cinematographers have to put ourselves out there, even though we've always felt we should stay behind the curtain," said McLachlan.


Journalist Bob Fisher, who moderated most panel discussions added "Vittorio Storaro was the first cinematographer to ever say…'I am the co-author of the film.' I'm sure he believes it must continue in digital mastering."


So Geoff's questions: "What do you do?... Can we all get together on this and
make companies more aware of how important it is?", are most pertinent.

Frederic Goodich
Cinematographer



>When a D.P. states he must be part of the grading process in order "to >protect the integrity of the image," it's just his ego talking.

Great post.

I hope you're wearing your asbestos undies.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
ULTIMATTE® compositing.
http://www.bluescreen.com



If a DP really understands what s/he is filming and the "look" s/he is achieving, why in the world would s/he trust anyone else to color time it? This is not a crap shoot people.

These types of posts really show the dumbing down of what we do. I know I don't shoot with the thought that the image can be manipulated in post to the whim of whoever is there. I shoot it to achieve the look we decide upon. I realize that the generic look might be preferred, but is that why we got into this business? If you only shoot to provide a beginning, with no responsibility to what you shot, then what are you doing? I find this approach to Cinematography, or whatever image capturing device you are using, really dumbs down and lowers the bar for people who actually know what they are doing. This is the new credo, "Let's work to the lowest common denominator then we will work and won't have to take responsibility for the images we create." What a world! This expression of "I work they own it" really makes me nuts. Yeah they own it, but they hired you to make it special. Not for them to make it special. If you think about that, clearly if they have to make the images special, then the DP didn't do his job.

How can one shoot and not care about the timing? How can one shoot and believe that other people have a better idea in post?? Yeah, in a CGI world, yeah. But in imagery, why shoot it if it isn't the best shot you've ever done at that point in your life?

I'm amazed that a supposed DP would post that s/he thinks it's okay to have other people manipulate his/her images because s/he didn't have it right to begin with. What a lot of these so called DP’s don't realize is that when an image is shot "neutral" and timed later shifted with color, the resolution and acuity of the films is reduced. Part of the electronic capturing movement is based on the fact that these people can see what they are getting, as opposed to knowing what they are getting on film. The lower resolution of the electronic capture can be compared to badly shot films that are mis-timed, or re-timed, and look bloody awful. I think you get the picture.

Sorry for the rant, but this makes me crazy!

Mark Woods, Director of Photography
http://www.markwoods.com/
Stills That Move, Pasadena, CA



>Sorry for the rant, but this makes me crazy!

Mark Woods…don't be sorry, excellent post!

I vehemently agree with what you said. And I might add that to me it's always the finishing touch to come in and the process with the colourist. I still have to learn quite a bit more myself, and every transfer is a new experience. I always insist in being there and hate it when it's not possible (as recently experienced) If you set out to create a look but someone else changes it doesn't feel right (imagine if someone else went up to Hendrix's amp and started tweaking the settings!) Well, maybe not a fair comparison since film is more collaborative than music...

I find it best when there is a collaborative effort from every angle-Colourist, Director and DP- but ultimately the director has final say, I suppose.

Why not extend the post and discuss who ultimately sets new trends in transfer...mistakes, collaboration,"running out of time any thing goes lay it down now" strong personalities-visions...

John Babl
Miami



Mark Woods wrote:

>I'm amazed that a supposed DP would post that s/he thinks it's okay to >have other people manipulate his/her images because s/he didn't have >it right to begin with. What a lot of these so called DPs don't realize is >that...

You're making a lot of assumptions about who I am and how I work.

I'll admit I'm just a lowly D.P. shooting regional 35mm TV spots and that I don't have a list of credits on the internet movie database like some of CML's more illustrious contributors, but I've got a film degree from USC, have made a good living in this business since I graduated in the early '80's, own a ton of production and postproduction gear, and have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing. It's true I left Hollywood years ago because I wasn't happy being a small cog in the big machine. I wanted more control and didn't want to wait half my career to get it.

So instead I became a big fish in a small pond. Now the advantage I have over a lot of cinematographers is that I frequently get to produce, direct, shoot, and edit the spots I work on. Thus my perspective is based on "what's best for the project" rather than "what's best for my D.P. reel." That doesn't mean I don't work hard to achieve a specific look in-camera or that I lack the skills to do so. It means that when I get to telecine, I'm open to the contributions a colourist can make. I try to remain flexible because the primary goal is to make the footage look the best it can, not to insist that it conform to my rigid preconception because my ego is too big to do otherwise. Usually I go with my initial plan, but sometimes I like what the colourist comes up with better, and let's face it, there are things you can accomplish during the transfer that you can't achieve when the camera is rolling, but either way, if the footage looks good, I look good. So who cares how it came to fruition?

Now that being said, there are many occasions where I've worked as a D.P. for other directors and producers, and in those situations I tell them up front that I want to attend the transfer, whether I get paid or not. I always assure them they'll get the best results if I'm there, but I know that statement is not necessarily factual. The truth is that if I'm there they'll get what "I" consider to be the best results, but who's to say my opinion is more valid than anyone else's? Sure I have more expertise than they do when it comes to shaping the image on location, but once that footage reaches the monitor in TK it all becomes subjective.

Cinematographers who demand control of the image in post are not looking at the big picture. They're frightened that producers are going to discover it doesn't take a rocket scientist to shoot film, and they're afraid that if they have to share credit for the creation of the final image, their impact on the project will be diminished and their value in the marketplace will be lessened.

Hey, I can relate to that sentiment because I know there are 1000 aspiring cinematographers out there eager to take my lowly place in this business! But I also feel secure in the knowledge that if I do my job on the set, I need not be threatened by the contributions others can make in post.

D.A. Oldis
Director/Cinematographer
Winston-Salem, NC



D Oldis wrote:

>Cinematographers who demand control of the image in post are not >looking at the big picture.

I have to disagree with you here. When I "time" a film or video or commercial, I am always looking at the big picture. Any Director that does not want my input is not looking at the big picture. This is what I have been hired to do, shoot the film. Well I do not put the film on the Hazeltine, and call lights, but I am there discussing brighter darker, more/less magenta, more/less Cyan, looking at the film with filters. In the colourists suite it seems to be the idea of "finding the look".

Well the look is there, I through discussions with the Director have established that. The Colourists - talented and skilled as they may be - was not part of that process. The Good colourists I've worked with want to know what kind of "look" I want BEFORE they see the film. It is exactly because there are so many different interpretations of the image possible, that there has to be ONE person to safeguard that image. One Vision carried through - The director Hires the D.P. to bring that Vision to the screen. It is NOT the DP's Vision, It is the DP's Vision of the Directors Vision.

"They're frightened that producers are going to discover it doesn't take a rocket scientist to shoot film."

No, but then again Give 100 rocket scientists a camera and a light meter, and a weekend class on lighting, How many are going to make "Great" Images? Or be able to create the images, and maintain the look, and contribute to the film's story, and emotional impact.

I had a client, and a great relationship with them. Then we had a shoot, and I couldn't go to the Telecine. So I shot the film to "lock" in the look I wanted - doubled the 85 filter (tungsten shot in daylight), and 2 and a half stops UNDER Exposed. G-d it looked gorgeous. The TK, came out exactly as I had envisioned. EXACTLY as the Director and I had discussed, matched the visual samples we had discussed perfectly. I didn't get a congratulations, INSTEAD I got the Director asking me if I had intended for it to look like that, I have the feeling that the Colourists turned it into a "I can save this" opportunity, and didn't just transfer it the way it was shot to begin with, as I had given instructions to.

I never have worked with that client again.

"And they're afraid that if they have to share credit for the creation of the final image, their impact on the project will be diminished and their value in the marketplace will be lessened."

Are you speaking from experience? You get to shoot, direct, and edit - so therefore you are keeping YOUR vision intact throughout the entire process. have you never seen someone take the image you have crafted, an image that conveys exactly what you wanted, and then have someone change it? It might still be a nice looking image - but it no longer conveys what you wanted.

No one is undermining the importance of a colourist. What is being said is, that the colourist is part of the Team, vital and important, but it is the DP who has gone through the script, and has taken all the discussions with the director/producer, and has distilled it into the negative (with the assistance of the Film Crew, and the Lab). Why on earth would you want to throw away all that effort and work? The colourists has not done all that work, I think that their goal is different. I like what they bring to the production, but what a colourists brings is a different sense of values, different priority, than what I bring.

I personally am not worried about sharing credit - No one can do everything alone, I am concerned about the final image that gets on the screen/television having the impact, effect, and "look" that it was designed to have. I don't want it thrown up there, and changed by someone else because they felt it might "look better" their way, that does NOT serve the needs of the project. If that was the goal, then everything would be beauty shots.

Steven Gladstone
Cinematographer - Gladstone Films
Cinematography Mailing List - East Coast List Administrator
Better off Broadcast (B.O.B.)
New York, U.S.A.


D Oldis wrote:

>What I typically do in that situation is turn to the colourist and say, "This >should be day-for-night."

Well that is the point isn't it. What if you weren't there?

Or here is a better one, what if the producer sitting in on the transfer they are paying for, upon seeing the shot looks so nice as a day for day instead said - NO I like it as Day for Day.

Of course that would impact the entire piece. The Director would have a meeting with the producer about how that changes the script, and it affects the flow of the movie. Good thing that SOMEONE is there to shepard the film.

Steven Gladstone
Cinematographer - Gladstone Films
Cinematography Mailing List - East Coast List Administrator
Better off Broadcast (B.O.B.)
New York, U.S.A.



>A DP's presence is far from essential during a transfer or grading >session. In fact, no one is essential except the colourist.

My involvement with a job (mostly commercials and music videos) starts with conversations with the director about the look and approach, continues with pre-production and scouting and followed, of course, by the shoot. The colourist involvement usually begins with the director arriving with the dailies for the session. For me to leave the decisions of the look solely on the colourist would be lazy, incompetent, and irresponsible. Controlling the imagery is not about the DP's ego, it's the job description.

David Waterston



Wow!

Cinematographers have rights over the images they create? Not in this town - lol. Seems like the only "right" I have been allowed to claim over anything to do with my work was to have the producers get me a non-vegetarian lunch the other day.

I learned a valuable lesson about "rights" to my work many years ago while I was standing by to start a telecine session. We were waiting in the bay for my colourist to prep the room for our session. On the monitor, there happened to be some still stores left from the previous session. These images were simply breath taking. I asked my colourist for the scoop and she informed me that Ridley Scott had just wrapped up the previous session and that the still stores were his. She then went on to explain that Ridley was going out of town on another job and the agency instructed the colourist (after Ridley left the bay) to change the "looks" back to what the agency producer wanted and not use Ridley's final corrections that were represented by the still stores. The colourist demanded to call Ridley to get his approval for these changes. The producer responded by saying that the agency was the client, not Ridley Scott, and that the final word was the agency's. In the end, the "look" was set by the agency producer.

I can deduct that Ridley Scott's day rate for a commercial is more than I would make in a year. The amount they paid Ridley for his work on the spot did not even factor into the final decision of what the image would look like. In the end, he who pays is the one who will have the final decision, and if those in power decide to pay someone of Ridley Scott's stature and not utilize his expertise to the fullest, so be it. It happens all the time in LA.

Since this eye opening event, I have insisted that I be allowed to follow my gigs through telecine. And knowing that producers, agencies, and rich business owners like to feel in control and spend the least amount possible, I adjust my approach to supervise the telecine to fit the motives of those in power (ass-kissing is done only as a last resort). Most of the time I attend the sessions without charging a fee, and in return I usually get a pretty nice dinner and all the junk food and soda I can consume. From time to time I even have received a meagre fee for my "post involvement".

You would be amazed at how supportive clients can be once they get to know, trust and respect you. The "free time" spent the in the telecine bay with my clients has gone a long way in cementing both our personal and professional relationships. It has even gotten to the point where some of my producers have entrusted me to open our films at festivals around the country. I would not have been able to participate in some pretty amazing experiences if I was a hard ass and insisted on getting my rate for supervising telecine. Getting paid is a matter of degree and I have been well "compensated".

The bottom line for me is to do what ever it takes to see my work to the end, and if Ridley Scott did not have final say to his images (this was back in the late 1980's mind you), then I can count my lucky stars to have at least been able to say that every frame of film I have ever shot over the past ten years has been mine. From the time I placed my eye up to the ground glass to the final sign off when they pulled the last flat off the rank. I realize this will all change if I get to shoot a studio picture or work on the latest Mercedes spot - lol.

We all must find our own way. This just happens to be mine.

Happy shooting and colouring.

Curt Apduhan
Director of Photography



Regarding payment for Post:

Most producers would like to have the DP in the grading however they dislike paying (As usual). The really good ones usually offer payment as a means of securing your participation and understand the value of paying for your time.

I have in the recent past experienced a new approach. If the producer agrees to pay, the post supervisor suddenly "forgets" to give you the dates or they schedule grading when the DP is busy. Once you offer not to charge suddenly everyone wants you there but then they get worried about you tweaking too much. (Catch 25-25-25)

In commercials and music videos in which the pay is usually good and the telecine session is normally finished in less than a day I never felt the need to ask for more money. If I could not be there I would always attempt to use the services of the best Telecine Artist (or Colourist in American) the production could afford and hopefully one that has worked with me before. In these cases I would fax precise notes with references, sometimes for every setup.

After all, in the same way a DP is (hopefully) attempting to support the directors vision and earn their trust, our fellow collaborators in those dark Telecine suites would like the same respect from us DP's.

Film making is a collaborative effort in which communication is of utmost importance. As a DP I attempt to make my views as clear as possible while doing my best not to become a control freak.

I have always found this stage of the process the most relaxing and felt it was never as tough as actually shooting or even prepping however with digital intermediates becoming so popular we may have to set some rules for payment. A two week session for free? I think not.

Guy Livneh, DP
Los Angeles
http;//www.liquid-light.com



Geoff Boyle wrote :

>Can we all get together on this and make companies more aware of >how important it is?

Perhaps it is time for the colourist to be on location to see the image first hand...so that for example...day for nights shots, are not graded in a way that they were not intended.

Yours Sincerely,

David Walpole
Cameraman
Australian List Moderator - Cinematography Mailing List
Perth Australia


David Walpole wrote:

>Perhaps it is time for the colourist to be on location to see the image first >hand...so that for example...day for nights shots, are not graded in a way >that they were not intended.

Problem with that is that the colourist may not see what's in the DP's head, just what's there on location. Far easier for the DP to be in the telecine suite, as it's an interactive back-and-forth.

Of course, in the future, there will be affordable color correctors and home telecine’s, and DP’s can, if they choose, grade their own work!

Jeff "raving futurist, yet loves old gear" Kreines



Jeff Kreines wrote:

>Of course, in the future, there will be affordable color correctors and >home telecine’s, and DPs can, if they choose, grade their own work!

Future nothing! you've been a full service home film gymnasium for years now!

Caleb Crosby
"Wish I Had A Rank"
Picturetaker
Lake Ponchartrain



Steven Gladstone wrote:

>have you never seen someone take the image you have crafted, an >image that conveys exactly what you wanted, and then have someone >change it?

I have indeed experienced that scenario and did not like it. That's why I whole-heartedly support the notion that the D.P. is the best person to oversee the telecine session. (I certainly believe I'm the best judge when it comes to footage I shot.) And I think producers are foolish if they don't capitalize on the DP's expertise throughout the post processes.

But I can't support a movement that claims the D.P. has some inherent "right" to control the final image, as seems to be the prevailing sentiment. The only person who has that right is the person footing the bill, and if they don't recognize the value of our contribution in post, then there's no basis for demanding payment for such involvement.

So that brings us back to Geoff's initial query: How do we go about charging for our supervision of post processes? Shangara had a provocative idea when she suggested we call the producer's bluff--which I interpreted as meaning: refuse to attend the transfer. The problem I foresee with this game plan, though, is if the colourist is proficient, producers will very likely be satisfied with the results achieved without our input, and that will further reinforce the conception that DP's want control of the final image simply to satisfy their own creative needs. In other words, the only people who think cinematographers are indispensable in post are the cinematographers themselves.

I suppose the union could threaten to strike unless control of the final image becomes a contractual stipulation, but in my opinion the only way a DP should acquire control is by financing the project himself or by earning a reputation that makes him so in demand he can insist on "final say" status as a contingency for accepting the job. Short of that, we should not be paid for supervising post unless the producer requests us to do so.

D.A. Oldis
Director/Cinematographer
Winston-Salem, NC



David Walpole wrote :


>Perhaps it is time for the colourist to be on location to see the image first >hand…so that for example...day for nights shots, are not graded in a way >that they were not intended.

That would make sense if the film image was supposed to look exactly the way the location does, but 99 times out of hundred, it takes a cinematographer's eye to see the film image when it's being shot. Colourists know what to do with the material that's already on film (or tape) in a dark room on a monitor. That's their expertise. Bringing a colourist on location only serves to prejudice their interpretation of the image to favor the physical reality. That's not a good thing, it's a bad thing. There are some exceptions - a colourist working on a television series, for instance, where the standing sets are there every episode, can benefit from seeing the actual color of the set walls, particularly when they're somewhat unique and are meant to be interpreted realistically.

There's a big difference in the world view and relevant skill set of post vs. production. Post people (colourists, editors, visual effects compositors, CG artists, etc.) see a frame of an image and instinctively know what to do with it. What they don't know is how the image in that frame was physically created. They always guess, and they're almost always wrong, about the lens, physical size of the set, relative real world distances between objects in the shot, etc., etc. My point is that it's unimportant for them to actually know these things in order to do their job properly. On the other hand, production personnel (including cinematographers) rarely have an intimate knowledge of color correction devices and their operation, compositing platforms and their associated abilities, or how to build and animate CG models.

There are exceptions on both sides, of course, but the collaboration between production and post is what hopefully makes the end product greater than the sum of its parts.

Michael D. Most



Mike Most wrote :

>99 times out of hundred, it takes a cinematographer's eye to see the film >image when it's being shot. Colourists know what to do with the material >that's already on film (or tape) in a dark room on a monitor.

My comments in respect to the colourist attending on location were to a degree…tongue in cheek, as at the end of the day it is the role of the cinematographer to create the required look on film, with the colourist fine tuning this “look”. Mike’s comments have only served has reinforced the process of film making.

I wonder if it has ever crossed the mind of producer’s to actually allocate sufficient budget, which would enable the cinematographer to be present at the telecine session as a natural course of events?

David Walpole
Cinematographer
Australian List Moderator – Cinematography Mailing List
Perth - Australia



Steven Gladstone wrote:

>Give 100 rocket scientists a camera and a light meter, and a weekend >class on lighting. How many are going to make "Great" images?

My initial point was that as DP's we're not essential players when it comes to telecine. That doesn't mean we shouldn't make every effort to attend and participate in the transfer. It just means if we're not there it can happen without us, and any qualified colourist can make our footage look good, although it may not match our preconceived ideas.

On the other hand, what happens if we show up for the transfer but the colourist doesn't? There won't be much transferrin' goin' on in that suite!

The flak I've received about this issue further strengthens my belief that cinematographers are a pretentious lot. Myself included. Our favourite past time is bolstering the illusion that we're irreplaceable.

Hey, instead of giving rocket scientists the light meter and camera, a more valuable test would be to give the gear to 1000 gaffers and camera operators, along with the opportunity to shoot TV spots, TV shows, and feature films. That would give us a little perspective on just how irreplaceable we are.

D.A. Oldis
Director/Cinematographer
Winston-Salem, NC



I'm going out on a limb here, and perhaps even sawing at the wrong end, but....

Producers will pay when it's shown to them that the cinematographer's presence is essential to the outcome of the film. When making a :30 commercial, the level of talent involved on the post/telecine side is usually quite high - the colourists I've worked with would prefer to have the DP present, but when the DP is not available, the producer is usually quite sure that between the colourist, the director, the producer and the agency that the telecine session will go perfectly well. I'm sure most of us have shot commercials that we couldn't telecine, and been satisfied with the work. There are of course exceptions to this.

The producer will be more inclined to pay for the cinematographer's time when they realize that they require the cinematographer's participation in order to accomplish the look - in other words, when they require the DP's presence, and the DP is only willing or able to make him/herself available if s/he is paid...

I think that this will become more apparent the more prevalent DI becomes.

To answer Geoff's question a little more directly, perhaps if the issue of post production is raised at the time of hire, the producer will consider paying the DP to participate in post. There is always a negotiation upfront about how many days of pre-production, how many shoot days, and what the DP’s rate of pay will be for those different days - perhaps if the question of Digital post is raised beforehand, that an understanding of how the film is to be shot in order to accommodate that particular post method, and then by pointing out that the choices that ordinarily might be made on set will be made in post production by the DP, then the producer will be induced to pay for the DP to be there. What comes to mind here is "O Brother Where Art Thou" - Roger Deakins knew he would create the look in post, and therefore didn't use corals or sepia filters. Without him in post production, I suspect that the producer and directors would have been very disappointed with the results.

Ted "mostly a gaffer, but couldn't help myself here" Hayash
Los Angeles, CA



D Oldis wrote:

>my belief that cinematographers are a pretentious lot…Myself included.

Welcome to the club then. I however am Irreplaceable. No one else will make the same creative choices that I do. No one else will respond to the pressures of time, money, etc. that we all face. I really am an indispensable part of the look. My colourist is also. I might choose a different colourist if I had my choice depending on different factors. I do not know if my images would look exactly the same.

WE are all indispensable to our particular look, if we weren't then we would just be batteries to be swapped out at whim with no difference. It does not mean that we cannot be replaced by another D.P., and that another D.P. won't do as good or even better job. It just means that no one else will make the same images.

Steven Gladstone
Cinematographer
Gladstone Films
Brooklyn, N.Y. U.S.A.
East Coast List administrator - Cinematography Mailing list



Steven Gladstone wrote:

>WE are all indispensable to our particular look, if we weren't then we >would just be batteries to be swapped out at whim with no difference.

Isn't your particular "look" generally why you are hired in the first place.

In my limited time as a DP, I ran into a situation where I was unable to supervise a telecine session. It was a freebie, and the post house didn't want to spend the time on it. I went before the session to set some of the "looks" for reference, but they didn't run the session as I was sitting there, they ran it later, at their convenience, and basically ignored my directions.

When the Director and I saw the final transfer, and weren't happy, I got blamed - not the colourist. So I vowed that if my name goes on it, I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure that it's the best that I can make it. That doesn't mean I won't collaborate, far from it, but I can make sure that nothing looks like crap.

As far as payment goes, this should be negotiated beforehand. No producer likes surprise expenses.

I don't know if it's possible to get paid for it regardless of attendance, but that may be one way to make sure that producers include you in the process. (If they're paying for you anyway, you might as well be there.)

Alternatively, you could adjust your day rate to cover your attendance at post. A producer may balk at paying another day for post, but they may not fight a small increase in your day rate, which, by the end of the shoot may more than cover your time in post…Or, you could increase your day rate if you are not going to be paid for post, and reduce your rate if they agree to pay you for post.

I haven't negotiated that many contracts, and I'm not sure how most people structure their deals, but lack of post supervision sounds like it should be a deal breaker. Why take on a project if you're not allowed to do half of your job, and you shoulder all of the blame if it looks bad?

Of course we all know the golden rule : "The person with the gold...rules." We've all dealt with clients who wouldn't know a good image if it came up and kicked them in the backside, but that makes being present in the post process that much more imperative. You can't argue your case if your not there to express you point of view.

Yes it would be nice to get paid for post, but there are also non-monetary forms of payment. Protecting your reputation, building good relationships with your clients, having more complete control over the final product, free junk food, etc...

Just a few things to think about.

Thanks,

Rachel Dunn
DoP/VFX
Los Angeles
http://www.racheldunn.com



>give the gear to 1000 gaffers.

I don't know how you shoot, but let's say the next time you have open heart surgery let the nurse do it! I'm sure insurance companies hate paying for that expensive surgeon to show up.

No one in our business is irreplaceable including the non-showing colourist. Just get another from the bay next door, but I'd rather be there as the DP. There is value added to the production when I'm in the room, and if I'm adding value, I should be paid. Whether or not is a whole different subject, and possibly one for collective bargaining.

Chris Taylor
DP IA 600
Santa Monica



>…alternatively, you could adjust your day rate to cover your attendance >at post.

Outside the box thinking, I like this.

I think I'll bump up my day rate up, then offer a matching discount to those projects who book me for the transfer block. I'm not at the transfer, the higher day rate applies. After all, it's more work for me on the set to "lock" the look when I can't or won't be invited to the transfer, right? More time and energy spent on the set compensating for missing out on the polish in t.k., correct?

Worth my shot, so to speak.

Jim Furrer
Director of Photography
Dark Street Films / VGG Systems, Inc.
Lakewood, CO USA



Michael D. Most wrote :

>vs. production. Post people (colourists, editors, visual effects >compositors, CG artists, etc.) ...

I've been following this thread and it's all been fairly enlightening, but I must make comment to Michael's post I'm a Visual FX Technical Director, which means I deal with Lighting and Color as it pertains to CGI and live action integration.

Many of us go to great lengths to understand the cinematic process. It's part of our job that facilitates our integration of CG with live action plate photography. We have whole departments and infrastructure that gives us lens data ( for matched perspective ), film stock ( for grain and photosensitivity response), nodal / motion data. We often have complete set survey data that gives us environmental topographical data ( and it's not theoretical from blue prints, it's laser scanned terrain data). And when someone on set is gracious enough, we do get lighting charts so that we know where DPs or VFX Sups have placed lights.

My point being, please don't say we don't know what's involved and that we care. VFX is not an autonomous entity. My feeling has never been that it is my job to replace a DP but to understand him and finish the image. Whether that be extending sets, or adding digital characters. I'm never given artist license to interpret the shot as I see fit, I am solely responsible for making sure that whatever happens digitally matches the live action footage.

A while back at an AFI lecture, they had a live action DP talk as he had just complete DP'ing Toy Story 2. He addressed the pros and cons or working within a wholly artificial environment. As frustrated as he made it sound, I think it spawned alot of constructive thought on each others role together. One that's definitely not going away. So anyway, my point being. There seems to be alot of tension in this thread, and please don't necessarily discount our interest in preserving the photographic process. We don't really set out to undermine anyone. Only when we feel like it.

Frankie P. Liu
Sony Pictures Imageworks



>Of course, in the future, there will be affordable color correctors and >home telecine’s, and DP’s can, if they choose, grade their own work!

Oh, I hope that's true. I look forward to it. It should be a real hoot.

There is nothing more humbling in this business than sitting down in that colourist's chair the first few hundred times.

It never ceases to amaze me how the higher up some people get in the crew food chain, the more they believe they're capable of doing everyone else's job.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC



My involvement with a job (mostly commercials and music videos) starts with conversations with the director about the look and approach, continues with pre-production and scouting and followed, of course, by the shoot. The colourist involvement usually begins with the director arriving with the dailies for the session. For me to leave the decisions of the look solely on the colorist would be lazy, incompetent, and irresponsible. Controlling the imagery is not about the DP's ego, it's the job description.

David Waterston



>My point being, please don't say we don't know what's involved and that >we care. VFX is not an autonomous entity.

I know that. I probably should not have lumped "CG Artist" in with colourists, editors, and compositors, because CG is the one area in which it is important to have knowledge of, or at least some information about, the physical set. What I was trying to convey with my comments was that knowledge of the physical set is not necessarily a good thing for those involved in image manipulation, because the photographed image rarely looks like the real thing to an untrained eye, and the photographed image is the only thing that's important once the shot gets into post. I don't think production should be "closed" to post people or vice versa, but as a former colourist, I can say that the image in your mind of the physical set definitely tends to influence the way you look at the film the next day, and that's not always a good thing.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles



D Oldis wrote:

>The truth is that if I'm there they'll get what "I" consider to be the best >results.

The people that hired you based upon your track record of remarkable images. You have to be true to yourself. You are the paid visual artist. You are responsible for manipulating every photon of reflected light that flows through the camera's lens and back out to the viewer's eye. Not only are you versed in the technical aspects of shooting, but you are orchestrating these elements with the practiced artistic eye. Arguably the best "eye" on the job. Certainly the most responsible "I".

The point is, you are specifically paid to SEE the strength of a composition, the fluidity of a well choreographed camera move, and you alone are paid to notice the way the light falls on a face giving it an emotional luminance. Your eye has more value than all others.

As a painter of light how can you willingly hand the brush of your near complete masterpiece to another artist*? Sure it's a collaborative medium. You have a Second Unit, The Visual Effects are often a mystery until they are done, and the Editor's choices can drive you up a wall, but the DP is the one responsible for the overall look as it pertains to the way the image is presented. In creating a vision, much time is spent with words trying to convince the very people who have hired your eye why some choices as better than others. Why would you give up your passion for the imagery just because you have packed away your meters?

Our job has never ended with the exposing of the negative on set. Post is just an extension of what is done at the lab -a precise form of timing and grading. The farther we allow ourselves to get away from the final viewing, the more we are doing a disservice to ourselves and the people that hired our "eye".

>Cinematographers who demand control...They're frightened...they're >afraid…I can relate...my lowly place in this business!...I also feel >secure...not... threatened...

The day you feel secure is the day you are not alive. Nor is your vision.

Don't worry, if you want to give up control you can be heartened with the fact that there will always be reformatting, time compression, panning and scanning and bad television sets with odd coloured bezels in bizarre coloured rooms with people watching your images in broad daylight.

Rambling on a bit too much today.

Cheers,

Eric Swenson
VizFxDp On-Set Super
http://www.ericvfx.com
IATSE Local 600 Dp and Supervisor



Francis P. Liu wrote:

>We have whole departments and infrastructure that gives us lens data ... >film stock nodal/motion data…and when someone on set is gracious >enough, we do get lighting charts ...

Francis,

While I applaud your efforts, you must know that as a CG artist at Sony you are part of an elite few that can afford such an army of information gathering. You are also given a forum to process that data. Most Post People are unfortunately alone and living in a vacuum. I'm sure there are others like you that care about the process and want the Production's parameters, but I tend to meet more pixel pushers at small Post houses that ignore the data and just plough in.

Why? My guesses are as follows :

1. Ignorance of how to deal with it. 2. Time allotted to deal with it. 3. Trust.

My favourites are the ones that ignore the data and work through the problems just like they always have done it. Many of these types don't even ask for help when they have a chance to before hand. I can't tell if this is Macho-ism or Martyrdom (coming from some convoluted historic sense of pride.)

Either way, it's bad for business.

Cheers,

Eric Swenson
VizFxDp On-Set Super
IATSE Local 600 Dp and Supervisor



To all of my detractors:

Very few of us can afford to put ourselves up on pedestals. Hat's off to those of you who can. I for one thank my lucky stars every day for the incredible opportunities I've been given.

D.A. Oldis
Director/Cinematographer
Winston-Salem, NC



D Oldis wrote :


>Very few of us can afford to put ourselves up on pedestals. Hat's off to >those of you who can.

Um, one needs that strange combination of high self-esteem and an extremely self-deprecating manner, I think.

I mean, I KNOW!

Jeff "yr. esteemed colleague, says he" Kreines



>What I typically do in that situation is turn to the colourist and say "This >should be day-for-night."

There's no absolute answer on this.

I think most projects are better off w/ the DP's involvement in post. Not only in terms of "the look", but in other guidance too, such as suggesting what is actually possible.

I recently had a colourist not want to turn down the edge-enhancement, he claimed he had all the Scandal stuff dialled in to counteract moire, but every horizontal and diagonal was singing with dot crawl... tons of it. Well, we suspected he had it cranked to better read edge code which they were having trouble with (never mind if it actually helped that). So you see, there are other ways another set of eyes can help the PROJECT (not simply help the poorly engineered bay !).

Producers love your involvement on this stuff... they don't pay for the "downtime". And at the same time you help the look, and decrease chances of failing QC.

I think most producers (I'm talking across the spectrum of TV, features, commercials, music videos) would rarely pay for the DP's involvement in grading. But I think most of them would ask for it "free".

I also don't think most DP's would do this just for their own ego. I think you'd have to be fairly mentally ill to gain an ego trip from color-correction... but I'm certain there are rare instances when this does happen... its just not the norm. Most DP's have to be somewhat stable to do their jobs and usually have the project's best interests in mind. Like I said, I understand there might be some exceptions.

In the last couple years I've been in final tape-to-tape on a 1/2 hr episodic and a handful of times find that the Editor had put in a Day/Ext Establishing shot between two adjacent night scenes (or something similar). And although the dailies the Editor's working with are flatter, and the Avid flattens it further... there were obvious visual clues that said night... its just that someone made a
mistake... and nobody caught it. Well, when we see it and I'm at the session, off goes an email to the producers and Post Super and they have to fix it.

One time I had the Post Super ask me if we cannot just time it to be the other way (reversing night & day) so that she would not have to take it back to online to fix it. I said no because it would confuse the audience with the sequence of days, and the next day they should be wearing different wardrobe...& it was not the next day, and you cannot make blown out sheers on the windows look like night. You cannot make subtle blue moonlight on the sheers and window shades look like day. Perhaps without DP's vigilance they would have tried this... then the producer/director would have seen the lame results and said what the hell are you doing ? Then they would have spent more money to fix it again the right way.

On this same episodic, we've done some cool things in tape-to-tape that the colourist (this guy's a huge talent) could not really do on his own since they are very specific tweaks and require a lot of courage to jump into (such as flashbacks that are supposed to look different from "reality"). I always email notes, which when left on his own, can do the trick. But when I'm there he feels better like it's ok to push things further. And sometimes I cannot quantify in words what it is we should do... only give a vague idea and then we just try some things for a couple of minutes to figure it out. Some wacky corrections require several tweaks in the secondaries and what not that you cannot really describe it...you just enjoy what you ended up with.

At times the colourist cannot know the detailed intentions of a scene without some guidance. The colourist does not always have the sound/music/fx track available to him - or they don't use it, preferring instead to play loud music in the back ground. Well, at times what you hear can really effect HOW one should correct something. And if I've heard the temp track, I can flag it for the
colourist.

As for ownership, well I too think the producers/studio own the picture, but it would be a more interesting world if DP's could have some ownership of the images. Writers certainly have more ownership of the words. but I think this is unlikely in an industry where the image is crafted by so many influences... but it sure would be nice if the DP could help guide that through.

How many times have CML'ers seen a project where extraordinary efforts are put into the prepping, shooting of a project, and then at that final step, tape-to-tape color correction, nobody's there and you get this normal transfer and there's nothing special about it (or they completely change something for no reason). Sure, the blacks are crushed and the signal's all legal, but there's so much more you coulda' done and not spent any more time doing it.

Essentially, the when ball gets dropped at the very end.

One more thing. There have been many times I've lit a shot, and I don't have much time, and I say to myself, I wont put a cutter there, it's a static shot I can put a heavy power window in to take down the back ground...relying heavily on color correction to save the project some dough. Setting the flag and tweaking the power window both take a minute. Yet production time is far more expensive, and in 15 minutes I lose the kid to child labor laws, and I must give the director some time to direct the scene. Put that way, the producers are more prone to throw you some pay...but its still a tough sell to most.

OK, just my experience in coloring.

Mark Doering-Powell
Los Angeles based Director of Photography



Eric Swenson wrote :

>Most post people...living in a vacuum...but I tend to meet more pixel >pushers at small Post houses that ignore the data and just plough in. >Why?

I will certainly concede that there are FX/post houses that fit your description. My self and alot of my co-works came from commercials and post, which tended to act as a introduction to the fx business. So there was a certain amount of inexperience. There's was a certain "garage" or "hack" to it. But for every house that fits that description, there are others that excel at their job. I was really addressing Michaels broad generalization of VFX and our lack of interest in the process.

I mostly think of it as a money issue. Some productions can't afford to have a representative from the post house other than the VFX Sup. Rather than waste his/her time, all the little stuff that makes post easier gets pushed in the background. So post tends to do what they can and improvise. And most productions aren't $150 million FX films so R&D, talent, software, hardware, etc, get scaled accordingly. Sometimes it’s inexperience, time constraints, money, etc, but I think no-one, neither post nor production wants to half-ass the work. You said it. It's bad for business. And houses that do bad work, don't get good work. Sometimes you just do what you can with what you have.

Incidentally, we seem to have worked on at least one project together and certainly have worked with mutual people before. So nice to meet you.

Frankie Liu
Sony Imageworks



To me it is all quite simple : we are asked to be involved in any given project because of our ability to create a particular visual style.

The Director of Photography's job / responsibility is to create an appropriate visual arena which supports the emotional arena created by the director and the actors that the responsibility starts in pre production. It continues throughout the shoot, and at any time in post when the image or "look" is being manipulated in any way at all.

Anyone else whose work might affect the "look" should ALWAYS ensure the DP is involved to protect the visual style they created.

The creative tools at our disposal now involve post time more than at any other time in history. The job has never ended on "wrap" - it has ended once the timing has been completed during post.

It now ends after ALL work involving the visual style is complete, and has the
DP's stamp of approval.

JAN KENNY ACS
Head of Cinematography
Australian Film Television & Radio School



Hey folks, I hope you can find a way to do what it takes to attend transfers. When the DP attends the session, I find things move along faster. Over time and repeated visits, we learn about your style and you learn about our capabilities. As I see it, your joining us for transfer is a win-win situation.

Bob Lovejoy
Senior Colorist
Shooters Post & Transfer
Philadelphia, PA USA



>I was really addressing Michaels broad generalization of VFX and our >lack of interest in the process.

I don't think I ever hinted at a lack of interest. I did talk about a lack of understanding, which is simply a result of not having experience in physical production. I think I went out of my way to explain that I don't really see that as a hindrance. We all have our jobs to do. Physical production and post production are two different things.

>I mostly think of it as a money issue. Some productions can't afford to >have a representative from the post house other than the VFX Sup.

Where I disagree with this is in the assumption that employees of post houses belong on film sets. Part of being an effects supervisor (in production, not in post) - a big part - is a deep understanding of the problems of production vis a vis time, scheduling, getting through a production day, turnarounds, necessary equipment, dealing with the political structure of a production set (i.e., who does what, who to go to and who not to go to, etc.), working with actors, working with various other departments, and a number of other issues that would never occur to someone coming from a post environment. It's a different world, and one which requires a different mindset and a different set of skills.

Knowing what constitutes a good tracking mark is a very small part of the battle, and, yes, part of the skill set also includes knowing when to delegate something to post that they might not like to do, but in the bigger picture is the better way of doing it given all the alternatives. The biggest single problem with post house personnel being on a film set is that their natural area of concentration is what they will have to do later, and their tendency is to try to tailor everything towards that, whether it is appropriate or not. While it is true that "nobody wants to half ass the work," there is often the question of time vs. money. At $5000 per hour minimum, and with issues such as turnarounds that must be dealt with, production is not the environment in which to be wasting time in order to avoid $1000 worth of roto work. The difference between an effects supervisor who understands this vs. an employee of a post company is that the effects supervisor will make the decision based on the big picture, where the post employee will often make the decision based on what might be a pain in the neck for one of his colleagues later on.

I'm really not putting any value judgments on any of this, even if it sounds like I might be. What I am saying is that regardless of the magic that post production might often achieve, it is its own world, and knowledge of that world doesn't necessarily qualify one to cross over into the world of production. Knowledge of production and an ability to make rational decisions based on that knowledge is what's required. These are two different skill sets.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles



By the way, I was not referring to Dailies Colorists who must check sound, but to tape-to-tape... and its usually low, BG music, with the track played louder (and music turned off) when needed. Sometimes there is just the track, but in this context the music's never bothered me with the excellent Colorist who's done this.

Matter of fact, I'm here with him now... should I tell him 1,000 DP's think his music's a bad choice ? Too bad music's off right now or I'd do it. Better not bother him though...he's busy.

But my point was that sometimes the track they need isn't even tempered, and not there. I corrected a musical once and there was no music/FX...only dialogue. It was really tough...kept having to refer back to the VHS with the temp music. We just did the same thing tonight on this episode having to refer to a music cue on the VHS.

So the point was that some guidance from a DP can help there too. That's all.

Mark Doering-Powell
Los Angeles based Director of Photography



Rachel Dunn wrote:

>Alternatively, you could adjust your day rate to cover your attendance at >post…Or, you could increase your day rate if you are not going to be >paid for post, and reduce your rate if they agree to pay you for post.

It seems to me there are really two different questions being discussed here :

1 - How do we go about getting paid for supervising post/telecine sessions?
(Geoff's original question)

2 - How do we get producers to recognize our right and responsibility to supervise post/telecine sessions?

They're two different questions, with possibly two different answers depending on the circumstances.

The first question seems like simple economics. Producers will pay DP's extra for telecine supervision when they feel like they're GETTING something extra from that supervision. Some producers recognize the contribution of the DP and are willing to pay for it. Some producers recognize the contribution but view it as a "bonus" -- that the work will still come out okay with only a colorist present -- and are less inclined to pay extra for it. And some producers feel that the DP's input during telecine is unnecessary or even costly (in the form of longer sessions so the DP can tweak), and are not inclined to pay anything more for it.

So getting back to economics, as long as the demand is variable the price will remain variable. It would be difficult to set a single price for telecine supervision for all clients.

The second question deals with control over the image -- the ideals and principles behind the creative process and authorship, and the perceived benefits and risks of any one management structure, and since film is a highly collaborative medium there are going to be many different viewpoints on who has control over what, and what the benefits and risks are (both artistic and financial). There's no one policy that will please every party, on every project.

But that doesn't mean that DP's shouldn't actively protect their role in the process, or that a workable policy can't be negotiated (especially by larger industry groups such as the ASC, the ICG, the AICP and so on). But it's a work in progress as the technology changes around us. Personally I feel that there is plenty of room for DP's to remain "shepherds of the image" and still cooperate with the input of colorists, directors, post people, and even producers.

So just how DOES a DP set a policy or price for telecine supervision that will apply to ALL clients? I don't know -- you probably can't. Just as car manufacturers make several models to appeal to a variety of customers, many DP's must make a variety of services and price ranges available to their clients (at least if you want to remain competitive). If you've been able to distinguish yourself in a lucrative niche, then you may be able to eliminate the "economy" model from your line, and focus on the "luxury" or "high performance" services and charge appropriately for them. The DP's who serve a wider variety of clients must be more flexible with the pricing’s and policies of their services.

One possible solution is to build your fee for telecine supervision into your day rate, and back that up with a contract stating you must attend the telecine session. By creating an "all in one" price package, you're unifying the pricing and scope of your services. It not only gets you paid fairly, but also sends a message that telecine supervision is a NORMAL part of the DP's job. All the quibbling over payment goes away when it's understood by all parties that the DP's sole job, and sole fee, includes overseeing the image from shooting through to color correction.

Michael Nash
DP/Pasadena, CA



Michael Nash said:

>One possible solution is to build your fee for telecine supervision into >your day rate, and back that up with a contract stating you must attend >the telecine session.

Yes, I hadn't thought to mention previously that for a few years now, I have made it part of every deal memo or contract that I be included in the telecine sessions.

Twice in the past year I have been unable to attend. Once was a short film, which 4 producers and the director chose to supervise - to disastrous results. I was quite disappointed in the footage when it came back. Fortunately, they think it looks great and have continued working with me.

The second time was only a few thousand feet of pickups on another project. The footage came out o.k., but the colorist took all the credit in front of the director. He did nothing but complain about the footage…Fortunately, the director knows me well and we have worked together quite a bit so he knew where to put it.

…so there's that.

On a broader not, I find I'm having to approach this whole concept of authorship more vigorously nowadays. More and more directors, while respecting the DP’s input, take TOTAL ownership of the film, including 'the look'. I find that directors have become more dictatorial and have forgotten their priorities of story, script, acting (in the narrative world) and want to focus on how it 'looks' - leaving us as just technicians. Being still a young'un to all this (I've only been DP’ing for a few years) I've tried to find that balance between pride and ownership in the work and serving the director, but have given up too much methinks. This list has helped me to recognize my own value as an 'author' on the picture…and dammit…I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!

…er…so there's that.

Roderick
Az. D.P.
www.cinema-vista.com


BTW, Geoff

My humble abode ain’t on no cliff, and I'm at least 300 miles from the nearest ocean…but I'll bet my 1970 Datsun 240Z with a 475hp 302 and a Ford 9" rear-end with 4:11 gears will beat your Merc. in the 1/4 mile, and I'll bet my F-600 truck will haul more gear, and my Geo Metro guaranteed gets nearly twice the gas mileage!

O.k., just thought I'd throw my little bit in there too.

'love yer work!'

Roderick
Az. D.P.



While it seems the topic is dying (wish I had more time to read my digests earlier) I figured I'd chime in with a quick opinion.

Our DP’s on Stargate have open invitation to come visit the post houses and see what we are up to. They always say they want to come but are inevitably way too busy.

Thank god I don't have to run every shot by them, in addition to all the other approvals I have to get. I learned early on what Jim and Pete like and we leave it at that. I try to have the CG guys light like the DP’s do, as best as they can. But on a long running series, there's just way too much work to do to have the DP’s come into to see every shot in post. Love to, but we'd never deliver. I'll give them a tape to look at and take their ideas into consideration, but it's understood that all changes are approached from a "allowable time" point of view.

I'm lucky, as they are very understanding.

I did invite one of the DP’s in one day to help us light a particularly nasty CG scene. I think he found it fairly intimidating, considering the "method" was so different from lighting on set. But it was cool to have him and the lead CG guys talk. I know the artist learned a hell of a lot about lighting in those 20 minutes and I wish they could get together more often. Two different world that do need to mix more.

Whenever we shoot a particularly complicated CG sequence, I invite the lead CG people to come to set. I introduce them to the DP and the gaffer and the director, but I instruct them to never give direction to anyone on set but me. I'll judge whether their notes and suggestions are worth following through. If so, I'll pass it on to the relevant parties. If not, I'll say "Not enough time." Everyone seems to like how that works and inevitably the CG people either get bored and leave halfway through the day, or lose steam and sit in a corner, blown away at how fast everything goes. I'm teasing, but I think the pace is pretty shocking to the uninitiated.

Mike is right: A compositor or computer graphics artist is not trained to deal with the minutia of set. Sometimes they make the jump to supervisor, but when they do, they have to approach set as supervisors, not artists. If they don't, they get killed and they end up with plates less than what they would have had, had they just trusted a good supervisor to take care of things. It takes a lot of skill and patience to talk will all the different people a VFX supervisor or DP has to talk with. And knowing how much a minute of time on set costs makes one speak in clipped, sometimes too short sentences. Almost like it's own language.

James Tichenor
VFX Supervisor



Mike writes :


>some producers feel that the DP's input during telecine is unnecessary >or even costly (in the form of longer sessions so the DP can tweak)...

While its true that most Producers think this, its often a misconception. Sometimes a DP's involvement can actually expedite a session and save money - if only because they've thought about the look and can articulate it best right off the bat. Otherwise you're just trying out stuff, saying to the colourist "show me"...which has its place, but not every shot if you're on a budget.

Making the "best" corrections does not necessarily take longer than making a mediocre one. It comes down mostly to the talents of the colorist and partially the lines of communication between DP and Colorist.

Its true that setting 5 power windows and tweaking the image constantly will take longer, but not all shots require that much work, and when they do, its not as if the Producer or whomever could expedite that any more than the DP, who, if well versed in color correction, can communicate those needs faster.

Last week a shot was sent to a CG Artists to make it more contrasty/obvious (I think they thought it was too dark/flat on the dailies tape... plus the editor's choice drove me nuts, but what can you do... she probably had her reasons). The Colorist and I asked them why they would do it CG since that's what he'd be doing to it anyway in final tape-to-tape (and DaVinci time is already paid for, and cheaper than CG Artist, and probably faster than coloring in after effects too). Just one example of no involvement and money unnecessarily spent on something already part of the deal.

There are some people who are simply unaware of what powerful tools are at their disposal in a modern color correction bay. I look back 3 years and its grown leaps and bounds.

Mark Doering-Powell
Los Angeles based Director of Photography



Geoff Boyle writes :

>They make very good white wine in NZ

Just returned from a few days in NZ, so I'm only now catching up on this thread. Didn't try the good wine in NZ. but the Sauv Blanc is indeed to die for.

Meanwhile, a relevant comment from Steve :

>The CML works best when people share their thoughts.

So does filmmaking. To me, the sheer joy of this business is the collaborative nature of the whole thing. To collaborate requires communication, and it requires co-operative working, and it requires the ability to promote your own input as hard as you can, but occasionally to defer if someone else's task alters your aims a little bit. If the director says - "wow this scene really does play better as day, not night" then there may be considerations beyond those of the cinematographer that (s)he has thought of. Then it's a judgement on whose work to compromise – the storytelling, or the look.

The way this discussion has gone, you'd think the DOP was responsible for nothing more than exposure. It seems to me that there's rather more to the task than that - or perhaps you've had me fooled all these years.

This doesn't answer the problem of whether a DoP should be paid for attending post sessions. My own parallel is teaching. Some places will only pay an hour for an hour's lecture, others pay for preparation time (and marking if relevant) as well. Some expect a freebie throughout! But if you want to do a good job, you'll prepare anyway. (But better if you can afford the time!)

Just an outsider's thoughts.

Dominic Case
Group Technology & Services Manager
The Atlab Group
http://www.atlab.com.au



>Many almost -as-powerful tools are available on the desktop - Avid's >Symphony color correction, while no daVinci, is pretty decent...

Agreed, but there's usually not a lot of wisdom in sending your dailies to 'pre-color correct' in a CGI environment that costs extra when you will do the same basic color correction again in tape-to-tape - which in most cases is already part-of-the-deal (in a high-end bay that's designed to do just color).

And as Jeff and many others have noted, the Colorist is so important in this.

In this context, I think the mentality that sends shots to CGI for color correction is misinformed in thinking they'll do some kind of "nifty CGI fix"... whatever they think that might be.

Mark Doering-Powell
Los Angeles based Director of Photography



>Its clear that all the Star Wars related posts have proven to be too much >for Walter.

>I agree that most producers may not think its worth it, but I'm >mentioning the irony that a DP's involvement can actually save >time/money - something not often considered in this matter.

> boy this thread's run its course hasn't it.


[to be read in Frank Oz's voice]

Course! A ship runs it's course, no? Boys and threads run, yes!. But this not is the action of a Jedi Knight! A Jedi must stand his ground and steer his own course and his own destiny he must decide or forever be lost to the dark side.

[End of transmission]

I know a lot of things I can do to save money and make productions work better. But logic never dictated the folks who make the decisions. In fact I can think of two times when I suggested methods at making thing more efficient and more economical. I was told to mind my business and shut up! I can think of a third where I was fired because I knew how to do things too efficiently. So I logically watch all the illogical things that go on around me. Man is this world living in the Matrix or what?

Walter Graff
NYC



Sorry for jumping in on the subject so late, I just returned from Japan...

Firstly, I find it inspiring that our list touches and openly discusses on such a controversial issue.

Secondly, I believe strongly that the cinematographer MUST attempt to keep control over the image. Our job is to crawl into the director's head, find and enhance his/her vision and deliver it on a playable medium of choice. We are there to deliver that vision, and we are the only ones allowed to crawl into the director's head. The director trusts us. Economics and scheduling often come in the way of that control and it is our job as well to deal with it.

I work mostly in commercials and for those specific circumstances this seemed to have worked for me pretty well:

1/. Bias your negative as closely you can towards your final image. If you have to shoot a multi-layered image that has to go through heavy post and that you have to shoot flat, attempt to shoot at least one shot with no effects and work the look into that shot.

2/. Strongly suggest to use a transfer house and colorist of your choice. Find a colorist that shares similar aesthetics than you do and someone you trust.

3/. Take digital stills of every set-up and color time in Photoshop. Send it to your colorist.

4/. Increase your day rate and don't charge for timing.

5/. In the first deal memo you send, include a clause, that there is a $5000 penalty if production bans you from attending the session. It will never go through, but it sends a strong message. Insist that if the transfer is out of town, you'll get flight, accommodation and per diem.

my 2 cents

Florian Stadler
Cinematographer, L.A.
http://www.florianstadler.com